"It's like a storm is brewing and it has everyone standing on the sidelines," says Bob Spratt, president of commercial real estate firm Hill Partners Inc.
And that near silence is expected to continue until 2010, when the market will likely reach its bottom, with values declining 40% to 50% off 2007 market peaks, according to the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2010 Report recently released by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the Urban Land Institute.
"Commercial real estate is lagging all asset sectors and it will come back slowly, it will be a long slog," says Jonathan Miller, author of the report and a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
What will be the tell-tale signs that at last the market has scraped the bottom? "When we start to see more and more institutional investors dipping more than just a toe in the water, which indicates the desire to start placing significant real estate bets," says Gregg Genovese, president of the Securities Division at Thompson National Properties.